How to grill the perfect steak
Jul 2, 2014
Want to grill a perfect steak, every time? With our tips from Chef Mark Bergstrom, Program Director of Culinard, the Culinary Institute in Greenville, S.C., your backyard may become more popular than the neighborhood steakhouse.
Choosing your steak
A great cut of beef makes all the difference in grilling a perfect steak. "The number one choice for steak is rib eye," Chef Bergstrom says. "It has a good fat content and it's easier for people to cook." But he says his personal favorite is top sirloin. "It has a really beefy flavor with less fat in it."
No matter what you choose, look for thick steaks -- 1 ½ inch to 2 inch -- to get the most from the contrast of beautifully-seared exterior and beefy interior.
Does marinade tenderize the meat?
"That's one of the misconceptions," Chef Bergstrom says. "There isn't a marinade in the world that can tenderize meat. They just infuse the steak with flavor. If you have a good quality meat, you shouldn't need all that."
Instead of a marinade, season your steak simply. Chef Bergstrom likes just salt and pepper with a little garlic. Season your steak about 40 minutes before it will go on the grill, although you can do this step up to several days in advance.
Gas or charcoal?
"Charcoal, definitely," Chef Bergstrom says. Gas is great if you're in a hurry but if flavor is your goal, charcoal is the way to go. Chef Bergstrom recommends using charcoal that doesn't use lighter fluid (including the self-igniting variety) since the fuel can taint the steak's taste. A chimney starter makes using charcoal much easier and gets the coals to cooking temperature faster.
Whatever your chosen grilling fuel, make sure your grill is clean before adding your steaks. "A lot of people mistake the black stuff for seasoning," Chef Bergstrom says. "I take an old dish rag or towel and rub the grill down with some cooking oil."
Grilling your steak
A grilling thermometer is ideal for cooking steaks exactly to your liking. Chef Bergstrom likes his steaks cooked to mid-rare, about 125 degrees internal temperature. Chef Bergstrom notes that steaks will continue to cook a bit when you pull them off the grill.
Want those beautiful, steakhouse-quality hatch marks? "Look at the grill like a clock," Chef Bergstrom says, "the bottom being six o'clock and the top being 12." Start your steaks at the ten o'clock position and rotate to the two o'clock position about halfway through cooking for perfect marks.
Despite what you may have heard, flipping your steak frequently does not affect its quality. Flip away, making sure to get a nice crust on each side.
When your steak is ready, you need to let it rest at least 5 minutes before serving. "By letting the steak rest, those juices will settle in and stay in the steak instead of going all over the plate," Chef Bergstrom says. While your steak is resting, you can throw some fresh veggies on the grill for a delicious accompaniment to your perfectly grilled beef.